Hailing from Oregon, guest contributor KM Collins is a geologist gone writer. Discovering she was a freshwater mermaid late in life, she started paddling 10 years ago and has been upping the ante ever since. First as a paddleboarder, then kayaker and finally, recently, buying her first raft. Roller skating, snowboarding and cycling rank among her favorite land-based activities.
Overnight paddle boarding missions are my favorite way to get on the water. Whether circumnavigating a lake or shuttling a down river trip, multi-days are where it’s at. When taking an overnighter, on a paddleboard, you’ll want to leave the kitchen sink at home and travel on the lighter side. This isn’t car camping or rafting – think ultralight backpacking and you’ll be in the right mindset. After years of soloing on rivers, here are the equipment must-haves I won’t leave home without on big mile paddle board missions.
One pot wonders
In packing for your upcoming multi-day, food prep is key. You’ll want to stick with backpacking freeze dried meals for both ease and weight. To reconstitute, I recommend bringing the Jet Boil. Available in different volumes for one or two person trips, this quick heating stove boils water in 60 seconds, is super packable and very reliable.
When you finally pull into camp after a long day of paddling, you’ll want to get dinner in your belly as soon as possible, and the Jet Boil can make that happen. Plus, rinse and repeat with morning coffee via Jet Boil’s silicon coffee press.
Backpack dry bag
To contain all your carefully selected ultralight gear, I recommend the Animas 40L Watershed dry bag. Not only does Watershed produce a top of the line dry bags, the Animas shape is the most conducive to packing a paddle board for a multi day. To keep gear weight low and balanced on your board, anything that packs flat and doesn’t stack too high is favorable. Plus, by the end of the day, when you reach the shore and start to set up camp, having backpack straps to help you transport your overnight gear from the shore up a hill or over a berm will make that last push of the day a little easier!
For a tent, I recommend the 3-season, one-person Sea to Summit Alto. Packing to the size of a nalgene 1L water bottle, it doesn’t get more ultralight than this.
Instead of a water purifier, I prefer to pack water in. Squared off Crystal Geyser one gallon containers are ideal – like mentioned, in packing your board, ideally you will keep the weight flat bottomed and no more than a foot tall. A Crystal Geyzer container on either side of your dry bag backpack dovetails nicely packed at the stern (back) of your board.
Side note: These containers are great to save and freeze water in for later use in coolers either car camping or rafting. Single use plastic is a bummer – so get a couple more uses out of it.
If you prefer not to carry all the water for the duration of your adventure to start the trip – water filters are another option. The lightest and cheapest option for capturing clean water on the fly is the LifeStraw. LifeStraw, Platypus and MSR also make gravity fed bagged purification options. My purifier of choice is the SteriPEN. It qualifies as light, it’s small and super easy to use, not to mention no chemicals are required. You just stick the wand in a nalgene bottle, push a button, wait a moment and it kills bacteria, viruses and protozoa (this includes giardia and cryptosporidium).
Spare parts and patch kit
Most paddleboards on the market are sold with a patch kit which includes everything you’ll need for pesky accidental leaks. Definitely bring this along. In addition, there are often screws or clamps and other parts that keep your paddle functioning properly – bring doubles of these parts and put them in your patch kit. Sometimes bits can be found at ACE Hardware, sometimes you can order parts directly from the manufacturer (if you’d like to order spare Aquaglide parts, reach out to our Customer Service team).
People like to romanticize pooping outdoors. Way back when hardly anyone was paddling or recreating outdoors, digging a hole was maybe a special and spiritual part of your river trip. Nowadays, following Leave No Trace guidelines is the standard. Bring a poop pack-out system on your trip. Wag bags are one of the easiest ways to do this. Besides, almost all land management agencies overseeing rivers and waterways require this. And you can be fined for not following protocol. I source my Wag Bags from NRS because the packaging touts, “no waste, no spills, no splash back.”
On the topic of bathroom management in the backwoods: if you’re a lady, think about getting yourself a she-wee, shenis or my personal favorite, the freshette. When you are punching out big miles on a paddle board, it’s nice to not have to go to shore to wee. Plus, they are super compatible with front zip dry suits for colder trips. Who wants to drop-trow in the winter air when you can stand up and go?
Properly Fit Life Jacket
If you haven’t paddled big miles in one day in your current life jacket, be sure to give it a try before you overnight. What you want to avoid is wearing a life jacket that starts to scrape your arms or chest after a few miles. You’ll want full range of arm motion with no agitation. This is especially important if you are planning a down river multi-day. If there is swift water or rapids I always plan to wear my life jacket all day on every day of my trip. While you may be used to paddling flat water with no life jacket, in river situations, it’s always wise to have a life jacket on for the duration of your paddle.
Bonus life jacket tips: Get a life jacket with good pockets to keep lots of snacks and sunscreen (ideally zinc stick) super handy.
This is not a comprehensive list of items to bring on an overnight paddle trip – just some of my favorite pieces of gear. Checking river levels, obtaining a map, having a gear shakedown with a more experienced friend and checking in with land managers for recent hazards, fire warnings and flood information are all also essential before heading out on an overnight paddle expedition. Knowledge is power when it comes to multi day paddling. Keep accruing as much as you can.